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Minas Tirith Forums » Reference Material » Classification of the undead and the dead (Page 2)
Author Topic: Classification of the undead and the dead
Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
Orks exist because they are in the stories. There's no real explanation for them based on the 'theology' of Tolkien's secondary world. Nazguls and ghosts exist, but there is no real explanation for them based on the 'theology' of Tolkien's secondary world.
If by "theology" you mean late texts found mostly in Morgoth's Ring, then it is plain to see that the "theology" is very undeveloped, ideas emerging and abandoned. The orcs' origins are a good example - but I don't want to discuss orcs here.
Tolkien simply didn't come around to explaining the nazgul. Though, I must say, the passage about the Lingerers (faded elves) and their difference from the Houseless gives us a fairly good idea of what nazgul's hröa and fëa were meant to be. Add to this numerous implications that could be drawn from LOTR and even more so from the "Hunt for the Ring" texts in UT and RC.

quote:
In no other place is there any thought of an alternative level of physical existence. I'd say that in this case, Tolkien was just talking (or in this case writing) out of his butt.
Yes there is - read the passage about the Lingerers (faded elves) and their difference from the Houseless. Tolkien did first write LOTR out of his b.. [] ... his imaginative genius, and then started to compose theology to explain all this. He first wrote the name "Ondor" in the story, then changed it to "Gondor" and then created an Age-long detailed history of this country. It was the way he worked. And what of it?

quote:
The fact that Tolkien didn't really have a grasp of the nature of the existence of the Nazgul is apparent in the different ways it is described.
You mean in LOTR? Nay, the reason is different: Tolkien's ideas were evolving while he was writing the story. The first part still contains some unedited remnants of his early idea : nazgul as shape-shifters. The last part (the return of the King is devoid of it. All this could be gleaned from HOME 6-8.
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Tuor
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quote:
If by "theology" you mean late texts found mostly in Morgoth's Ring,
No, what I mean by theology is the basic ideas that Tolkien was trying to illustrate through his work. If you want an idea of what Tolkien was trying to do, see my sig.

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-
The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision.

~Letter 142

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Ulairë Gordis
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I think you are fundamentally wrong, Tuor. Tolkien was not writing to convey a theological message, he was writing to tell about the wondrous word that he was gradually "discovering".

quote:
The Lord of The Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print 10 years ago; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them.

...As for any inner meaning or 'message', it has in the intention of the author none. JRR Tolkien, Foreword to the Second Edition of LOTR

Edit: added source

[ 04-12-2008, 05:34 PM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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The Witch-King of Angmar
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Maybe one day, a movie-maker can do the same with it.
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Ulairë Gordis
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With what?
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Wetwang
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Maybe Tuor or UG would be good enough to clear up a confussion on my part.
Letter 142 was writen in 1953 and the quote you refer to UG must have been writen in 1964/5 [?].
However, around the time of your quote UG the good professor is corresponding with W. H. Auden about whether or not the whole race of orks are irredeemedly wicked or not when he mentions LotR in a broader sense and says of the work,
quote:
With regard to The Lord of the Rings, I cannot claim to be a sufficient theologian to say whether my notion of orcs is heretical or not. I don't feel under any obligation to make my story fit with formalized Christian theology, though I actually intended it to be consonant with Christian thought and belief, which is asserted somewhere, Book Five, page 190,1 where Frodo asserts that the orcs are not evil in origin. ~ Letter 269, 12 May 1965
So I guess what I'm wondering is did JRR modify his thinking about LotR from being a Catholic work to being one that was just in agreement with Christian theology? And if so why?
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Hamfast Gamgee
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The funny thing is that Tolkien did say in the foreward to Lotr and very loudly that there was no inner message to Lotr. He was possibly a bit fed up with people asking him what the message was. Yet no journalist seems to believe him! He did precisely say that it was not an anology of WW2 despite that been constantly made!
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Ulairë Gordis
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Wetwang, the foreword to LOTR I have been quoting was written by Tolkien in 1965 with the impending Second Edition of LotR. I don't know if the first edition had any Foreword.
Anyway, the Foreword was meant for much wider auditory than any letter, so I think it should take precedence.
The letter 269 you quote doesn't seem at odds with the Foreword: even if there is no message intended, an author's own beliefs are hard to conceal in his writings.
As for the letter 142, written twelve years earlier,one should remember that it was a letter to a priest, who had suggested himsself the parallels between Galadriel and Mary.
quote:
[Father Roben Murray, [...] a close friend of the Tolkien family, had read pan of The Lord of the Rings in galley-proofs and typescript, and had, at Tolkien's instigation, sent comments and criticism. He wrote that the book left him with a strong sense of 'a positive compatibility with the order of Grace', and compared the image of Galadriel to that of the Virgin Mary. He doubted whether many critics would be able to make much of the book – 'they will not have a pigeon-hole neatly labelled for it'.]
Thus in his reply to his friend, Tolkien could hardly deny his faith's influence on LOTR, could he?

[ 04-12-2008, 05:45 PM: Message edited by: Ulairë Gordis ]

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Tuor
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quote:
I think you are fundamentally wrong, Tuor.
Of course you do. Just as I know you are fundmentally wrong.

The fact is that this idea of unseen bodies exists no where else in the Legendarium. They were just a corner Tolkien painted himself into.

Edit:

WW,
quote:
So I guess what I'm wondering is did JRR modify his thinking about LotR from being a Catholic work to being one that was just in agreement with Christian theology? And if so why?
I would think that Tolkien would believe those two statements to be one in the same.

[ 04-12-2008, 06:18 PM: Message edited by: Tuor ]

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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quote:
I understand that Tolkien was trying to make a distinction between the two, but it just doesn't fit with the foundational principles of Tolkien's Secondary world.
That's your problem, as your oft-cited signature displays. The "foundation" was changed after the edifice was built.
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Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
The fact is that this idea of unseen bodies exists no where else in the Legendarium.
It does. Exist. In Morgoth's Ring.
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Tuor
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Morgoth's Ring, an unpublished text.

What I meant was anywhere before the writing of the Lord of the Rings. This idea is totally foreign to the earlier writings. The only reason it was introduced was to try to get around some theological problems that the ghosts and Nazgul presented. The specific problem is the rule that not even the Valar (let alone a lowly Maia whose power was taken to a very low level after the destruction of his body) could not take Eru's gift away from Men.

Surely it was not Eru's direct action that created the Nazgul, therefore there had to be an alternative explanation to get around this issue. So a new classification of existance was created, a world nowere else menationed and in no coherent way described. I've seen people make inferences about this and that, but there is no real explanation. People think, like Tolkien, that if it is in the story, then it must make sense with the earlier rules put forth by Tolkien. The problem is, the Nazgul do not. They are there, but with no real explanation of their existance. That's why you can't look too closely at them.

If there were earlier references and descriptions of this third form of existance, then my point of view would be changed on this matter. The characters would have been created within the rules of the Secondary World. The problem is the world was created to make sense of the characters. It is a totally Bass Akwards way of looking at things. I find it laughable and am a bit disappointed in Tolkien for attempting to do such a thing. It makes the story nothing more than contrived.

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Roll of Honor Thorin
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What “theological problems”?

quote:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen.
I’m guessing that the Professor said that line every Sunday in Mass for 70 years or so.
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Ulairë Gordis
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Tuor, don't you understand that it was the way Tolkien worked? He never had a detailed concept (theological or any other) or a detailed plot before starting to write. He let the story write itself. He made the hobbits almost reach Rivendell before he understood why the hell they went there in the first place. When he wrote the Ford scene, he had no idea of the number of the nazgul or what exactly they were. Gandalf became a Maia instead of a Man after the LOTR had been written. Maybe it is good to work this way, maybe bad, but I am satisfied with the result.

Tolkien earlier "theological concepts" were as unpublished as his later ones. How Tevildo the Cat fits better into the vague "Tolkien theology" than a nazgul?

quote:
I find it laughable and am a bit disappointed in Tolkien for attempting to do such a thing. It makes the story nothing more than contrived.
I leave you to your disappointment. []
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Tuor
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quote:
Tuor, don't you understand that it was the way Tolkien worked? He never had a detailed concept (theological or any other) or a detailed plot before starting to write. He let the story write itself.
I know he wrote the story as it came to him. That isn't what I'm talking about. The problem is his contrived attempt to make everything work. It would have been better if he had just written it off as unexplainable, as in the origins of Orks. Every explanation has issues. Therefore their existance is simply accepted.

quote:
I leave you to your disappointment.
More pity really. He may have been, as he believed, inspired by God to tell the story that he did, but his attempts 'perfect' it did nothing. You can't force 'inspiration'.

He must have been a pretty frustrated man there at the end.

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Ulairë Gordis
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quote:
He may have been, as he believed, inspired by God to tell the story that he did, but his attempts 'perfect' it did nothing. You can't force 'inspiration'.
Did he ever say he was inspired by God? Just asking...

I also think that his latest attempts to perfect the story were not much successful. For instance, I dislike the latest ideas on Galadriel and "Teleporno". Seems like a watered-down version of the earlier story. But I believe that his attempts to explain some things (like the Houseless and Faded) were interesting. If he felt the need to write all this - who am I to complain?
Yet, I would have preferred if he used his time to write more Second Age and early Third Age stories only hinted at in his writings.

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Tuor
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quote:
Did he ever say he was inspired by God? Just asking...
See Letter 328. In it you will find where Tolkien said that he no longer believed that he had written the story and that he was God's 'chosen instrument'.
quote:
. But I believe that his attempts to explain some things (like the Houseless and Faded) were interesting. If he felt the need to write all this - who am I to complain?

Who is complaining? I'm just pointing out the basic error of his attempt.
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Amárië
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quote:
Yet, I would have preferred if he used his time to write more Second Age and early Third Age stories only hinted at in his writings.
Bah. Too many men. []
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The Witch-King of Angmar
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quote:
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Did he ever say he was inspired by God? Just asking...
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

See Letter 328. In it you will find where Tolkien said that he no longer believed that he had written the story and that he was God's 'chosen instrument'.

This follows the Christian tradition of "theopneustus," i.e. "divinely inspired," where biblical authors felt that they were the God's instruments in writing scripture, rather than out of their own heads. It's a very spiritual element, and was required for biblical inclusion.
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Hamfast Gamgee
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To add to the orignal list, what about the spirits in the dead marshes?

[ 05-01-2014, 02:41 AM: Message edited by: Hamfast Gamgee ]

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The Flammifer
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Inspired?
In "Letters" #163 Tolkien says (paraphrase): On the way - he had never been to Bree; he didn't know who Strider was sitting in the corner at Bree; the Mines of Moria were a mere name; he knew nothing of Lorien till he came there; Fangorn was unforseen; he never heard of the House of Eorl nor the Stewards of Gondor; he was mystified as to why Gandalf didn't show up at Bag End on Sept. 22; He new nothing of the palantiri till Pippin threw the Orthanc Stone.

In another letter (241) he wept tears on his manuscript as Frodo and Sam were being honored on the Field of Cormallen.

Inspiration from ????

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